Challenge the
innovation status quo

Strategies for Ensuring Innovation is Human-Centered

Making the Case for

Human-Centered Design.

In an environment where status quo can equate to competitive disadvantage, organizations must embrace novel ways to get new offerings to market. In doing so, they will avoid missteps that can result in millions of dollars wasted on unsuccessful ideas. While legacy product-centric thinking still prevails in many organizations, adopting human-centered design can be an effective way to evolve teams. Continue reading to learn more about human-centered design and how it can support a multitude of strategies within teams looking to break free from tradition.

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Human-Centered, not Human-Only

When bringing human-centered approaches into the innovation process, teams can often feel unsure how to best meld the two practices together. Teams often fall into two common pitfalls:

  1. Overemphasizing human needs and losing sight of the business and marketing content.
  2. Bringing human needs into existing processes too late.

To avoid these pitfalls, setting a vision for your innovation team and establishing a flexible process must take place to ensure human-centered design principles are shaping strategy. Next time you’re exploring your innovation pipeline, reflect on:

  • Have I truly empathized with my consumer?
    • What need is this idea solving for?
    • How are consumers articulating this need? 
  • How does this idea fit with the business objectives of my organization?
    • Is this a capability the team already has, or do you need to build it?
    • Does this fit with the brand vision and existing equity?
  • What will it take to make this a success?
    • What are the launch strategies and investment required?
    • Are there competitors already in the space that we need to differentiate from?
    • Are consumers willing to pay to solve this need?

By ensuring your processes are bringing the human perspective to the forefront, while balancing business and marketing insights, you’ll be able to effectively balance a multitude of stakeholders from executives to your customers.


Identifying the Right Opportunities

Innovators often find that they are most passionate about their innovation projects when they can personally relate to the need they are solving for. And while passion is a primary ingredient to innovation, it can also lead teams astray. Ensuring ideas have a viable market opportunity is a critical aspect to innovation that can be a tough pill to swallow for passion-driven innovators.

When identifying the right opportunity for innovation, push beyond your own experiences, and ensure the right tools and people are in place to support your success.

  • Explore influencers, both internally and externally to gain a holistic view
    • Fueling a sustainable innovation pipeline means establishing an innovation process that takes into account influencers within and outside of your organization.
  • Immerse yourself in trends to guide future thinking
    • Look beyond trend reports to identify early leading trends that have not yet made it to mainstream publication.
  • Ensure you’ve identified the right need to innovate for
    • It can be easy to want to quickly move from problem identification to solution development, but spending time ensuring the problem (or need) is well-defined and effectively articulated will ensure solutions are tied to impact.
  • Use a process, such as Investment Readiness Levels to ensure ideas have a reasonable case for investment
    • Steve Blank’s Investment Readiness Level offers key investment stage gates that ideas must go through to support additional funding and exploration. Using this, in combination with a Business Model Canvas, brings together consumer, marketing, and business viability into a single assessment tool.
  • Align market opportunity with brand equity to maximize success
    • Discover white space opportunities within the market to optimize competitive positioning and ensure your innovation pipeline is fulfilling on true unmet needs.


Ideation & Development

Whether you are in a formal session or on a call with your team, effective ideation requires more than brainstorming ideas. In fact, effectively preparing the right combination of insight, inspiration, and energizing exercises requires thoughtful planning, a framework, and expert facilitation.

Facilitators that stand out from the pack bring a different level of thinking and engagement to the forefront, including:

  • Energy: Setting the tone for the day, ensuring individuals are prepared to embrace other’s ideas, and bringing enthusiasm to the forefront establishes an environment where others want to contribute.
  • Environment: Beyond energy, immersing the team  ensures empathy remains heightened throughout the ideation session, even if conducted digitally. Live immersive spaces, consumer guests, and digital missions are all strategies to create an environment that brings the human into conversations. Using a strategic growth territory as the focal point for ideation serves as an alignment vision to ideate against.
  • Engagement: Holding all participants accountable to engage, and creating small group environment that enables individuals to comfortably share and build ideas is critical to pushing boundaries. Creative thinking exercises take this one step further by helping teams break from traditional thinking.


Setting Yourself Up for Success in Market

Most often, when individuals think of human-centered design, they often think of the mindset as a wholemissing out on important nuances and opportunities to bring the human into innovation.


Empathize & define

  • Empathy-building
  • Market assessments
  • Unmet need and pain point identification


  • Ideation and
  • Idea prioritization

Prototype & test

  • Concept development, reactions, and refinement
  • Prototype testing
    and usability

Launch & refine

  • Launch strategy development
  • Post-launch feedback


Opportunities to incorporate your consumers into the innovation mindset are abound. Get inspired by a few recent examples that empower innovation teams to embrace human-centered design in authentic ways.

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